ZEN-SEM

Monday, October 31, 2005

Algorithm Surfing

It’s been an interesting month for SEO. MSN Search and Google have made substantial changes to their ranking algorithms, right behind last month’s Yahoo! changes. While staying abreast of these changes is crucial to providing quality SEO services, Zunch goes one step further by preparing for the future changes, today. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we have the next two best things: zLab, Zunch’s SEO test lab, and SEO experts with plenty of years ‘in the trenches’ who know when, at times, the best action is no action.

It seems that we always have tests running in zLab. Some of the tests are researching solutions to real-world SEO problems, some tests are settling arguments between Jeff and Tyson, and some tests are “hey, what would happen if…” or as we some times call it “things you would never test on a client’s site but would be really cool to see”. These tests allow us a window in which to see why pages rank they way they do and often serve as an indication as to what changes have been made in the latest search engine update.

Having an SEO strategy that gets you rankings is not enough; you need to know when the best strategy is to do nothing and “ride out” the update.

Huh?

What most often happens with these types of changes MSN and Google did this month can be assimilated to throwing a rock into water. As the ripples spread out, they completely change the surface of the water - some points are higher some points are lower. You only know how the water level is truly affected until the waves stop. Because of the practices Zunch incorporate into our SEO program, we often find that after the waves of change pass, clients most often come out on top.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Blessings of Good, Free Software

This morning it occurred to me how useful free software can be. In particular, I've found Xenu Link Sleuth to be incredibly time saving in the past few days. As any good search marketer knows, a poorly architected site structure can many times be the largest hurdle to conquer in an SEO campaign. Even the nicest looking, most comprehensive site in the world will suffer mightily if URL session IDs are present or if javascript navigation is predominantly used. Tools are needed to expedite the site evaluation process and quickly identify the culprit of a poor-performing site.

Link Sleuth very eloquently and graciously hammers a site with asynchronous requests, gathering information from thousands and ten thousands of links in a matter of minutes. Once finished, easy-to-read reports are produced that display 404 pages, orphaned pages, a sitemap and more. I've even built my own link crawler for our team to use, but I continue to go back to Link Sleuth.

As a side note, we are trying to do our part by offering ClickFraudDetective, our click fraud software, free of charge. The best things in life are free, right?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Yahoo Site Explorer

Very cool tool to help with URL detection --> Yahoo Site Explorer

We have been using this utility extensively, since it launched a few weeks back, for determining old URLs that are indexed that need to be 301-redirected to new URLs of pages that we are building out.

* This utility is in Beta

Thursday, October 20, 2005

PageRank Update

I guess MSN should work on their link building. A PR of 2!

http://www.msn.com

Friday, October 14, 2005

Making sense of Google vs. Microsoft

For most of 2005 now, it seems we cannot get through a work week without a new offering from Google. From GoogleMaps to GoogleTalk, Schmidt and his team are stretching further than ever before. And with its new partnership with Sun, there's little doubt Google wants to cast a colorful shadow across the world.

But I've heard many over the past year complain, saying Google should stick to search and just dominate the market. Some say Google should stick to its roots and let retail software companies worry about the consumer market.

I say that is a very near-sighted opinion. The problem is this: Average web searchers don't use an engine primarily because of its relevancy, but because of its simplicity. They simply take the path of less resistance. Google designed a simple, easy-to-use interface that was straightforward and effective, and people came.

Now, Google realizes that Microsoft has every opportunity in the world to make a search interface that is quick and easy (we're already seeing some of this in Windows Vista and Office 12). Currently, Google relies on the browser; people opening IE or Firefox and navigating. But what if the browser, as we know it, disappears?

Google has to get in front of your nose in a proactive way if they want to survive. They have no other option.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Google Rolls Out Google Local

Finally...Google rolls out Google Local integrated with Google Maps.

Not much to rave about over the launch of Google local or MSN local for that matter. If I had to choose which search engines local search features I like best it would have to be Yahoo! local IMO...much cleaner user interface, results are more organized, and easier to navigate. Elements that create a positive user experience.

Opinions?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Update: Are Yahoo's top rankings being hijacked?

There have been some interesting changes going on in the Yahoo! SERPs.

Looking at the case examples now yields significantly different results.

Case 1 - Update
Now, a search for [texas real estate license] shows the original #1 spot is gone. That’s sites #1 ranking was replaced by a #4 and #6 ranking.

The original #1 (which had the home URL) ranking is now in the #6 position. Of special interest is that now the actual title is listed along with an actual snippet from the page (not the Yahoo! directory title and description). Also ‘index.html’ is now on the end of the green URL.

So, if memory serves, the Business.com’s feed listing might now be replaced with these two new rankings.

When clicking on the site you are now sent to two redirects on Yahoo (rds.yahoo.com and rdre1.yahoo.com vice the one redirect -rds.yahoo.com- as the others below) then over to the actual site, bypassing the Business.com set of redirects.


Case 2 - Update
Now, a search for [illinois real estate license] shows the original #1 spot is gone. In fact it’s not even in the top 100, but ranked 107th.

Wow. Was Yahoo that far off? Was the relationship between Business.com and Yahoo affecting the ranking that much?

When clicking on the site you are now sent to a redirect on Yahoo (rds.yahoo.com) then over to the actual site, bypassing the Business.com set of redirects.


Case 3 - Update
Same position (#2), however, again this time we see the actual title and snippet from the site (not the Yahoo! directory title and description). And we also now see the tracking code in the URL (www.spectraesolutions.com/?trackcode=bizcom)

When clicking on the site you are now sent to a redirect on Yahoo (rds.yahoo.com) then over to the actual site, bypassing the Business.com set of redirects.


What else is interesting to ponder is:
Is/was Business.com replacing natural (free) rankings with their feeds of advertisers on their own PPC system? If so, then some advertisers are/were paying for traffic they may have once been free. Good for Business.com. Not so good for you if you’re paying .65 cents a click to Business.com and, through Site Match (modified because of the sheer bulk of advertisers Business.com brings), Business.com is paying .10 cents, or less, for your once free listings.